Lessons in Survival from Australia's First Settlers

Lessons in Survival from Australia's First Settlers
You’ve all heard the story about how Australia was formed by convicts, but there’s little talk of the trials these first settlers were forced to go through once they landed on the shores of the new world. Forced to work off their debts, once repaid they were given meager food and clothing rations, and left to their own devices to survive. As you can imagine, this led to a number of rapid developments, as famine, disease and poor living conditions made life very tough in this new colony. I’m writing about this today because I see some stark similarities in what we need to be ready for should a crisis at a large scale happen, and give a few ways you can be better prepared to survive.

Disease is the biggest killer

Sanitation and poor hygiene were the biggest problems plaguing these first settlers. Without the knowledge and expertise of “how to do it right” they made many mistakes, which often led to the rapid spread of diseases and epidemics. But not just the Europeans, the diseases we’d all grown used to killed off the local Aboriginals faster than anyone imagined (over half died in the first few years of settlement). Wherever you find yourself, remember basic sanitation. Boil the water you drink. Wash your hands with soap before preparing a meal or eating your food. Keep your clothes as clean as you can, and make sure any latrines are dug at least a few feet deep, and are kept well away from camps, and any potential contamination of local water supplies. I’d also recommend stocking up on key medical supplies. Antibiotics to fight off infections, and cleaning products like soap and bleach to wash and disinfect as you need. Good sanitation is vital when you’re living in a situation like the first settlers, and a few smart hygiene practices can keep the disease epidemics to a minimum.

You’ll need good items to barter

Despite the British having a strong currency, a barter economy sprung up almost overnight in Australia, with items like rum, wheat and corn the most desirable products for trade. Plus, there simply wasn’t enough pounds sterling to go around for the economy to work as it should. Barter was needed, and it quickly became the way to do business. It’s not that hard to imagine a situation like this happening. With the grid down, power and phone lines out, and no internet – it doesn’t matter how much cash you’ve got in your accounts if you can’t actually access any of it. You need to prepare a tidy sum of cash available, and store it in your safe or in a hidden cache in your home. But you also need to ensure you’ve got plenty of desirable items available in your stockpile for trade. Cash is all well and good, but you can’t eat it and it burns far too fast to be of any warmth. Canned food would be a winner in my book, but don’t forget non-perishable items like cigarettes and liquor. People will give anything for a little escape when the world is bleak and their fortunes are down.

Be ready to learn and adapt

In any new environment you’re going to be faced with challenge after challenge, the biggest in my mind as I can start to smell the dinner being cooked as I type this is food. A reliable means to get your three meals a day. For these settlers, they needed to grow crops, but the farming they knew from England simply didn’t work over in Australia. If the settlers weren’t open to new ways of doing things, they would have starved. They learnt new ways of farming and working the land that the climate and conditions in Australia demanded. They adapted, and that’s how they survived. What this means for you is that you need to keep an open mind, and develop a survival mindset of continuous learning. Don’t just settle for what you know, ask people for advice, study in the books and online, and hone your skills so you’re ready to adapt and overcome whatever challenge comes your way. Be it the weather, the climate or a particular disaster, learning is the key to thriving and surviving a crisis.

Watch out for the greater good

We all know that power can corrupt, and the settlers faced harsh punishments in an attempt to maintain order. Now, you can imagine how fast a hungry and unhappy population can spiral a situation out of control, so the law responded in kind, with extreme punishments designed to scare the people into submission. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned for the law, and revolts and riots were the result. Does this sound familiar? We see these kinds of actions happening to this day, in countries all over the world, and even in our own backyard. The powers at be will do whatever is in their power to maintain the status quo, and will most certainly enact martial law. Stripping your rights, your supplies and everything else they deem necessary to maintain the good and order of the country. My advice? Don’t stick your nose out, and make sure those in your group are at least acting the part. In a crisis, you don’t want to be the one made an example of, even if it’s “not right” and you hate it. Put your head down, do what they say, and make sure you’ve got your supplies and firearms on lockdown, and split into several caches just in case they come knocking on your door. History can teach us a good many things, and in this particular case there are some very interesting parallels that we can draw from those first Australian settlers to the situations we’d face if our civilization was ever set back a hundred years.

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